Something I have been pondering as reports of passing of notables in 2016 have been shared…..people have been responding that it somehow makes this a ‘bad year’. David Bowie, Alan Rickman, Prince, Florence Henderson, Muhammed Ali, Elie Wiesel, Gene Wilder, Harper Lee, John Bradshaw, Gary Shandling, Leonard Cohen and numerous others, took their leave. Each created a legacy that will have an impact for future generations. Each had family and friends who love them and mourn their passing. Others are waiting at the threshold to cross over it. Life brings us all manner of reasons to grieve and celebrate, sometimes a breath apart.
The sad reality is that people die everyday. Some we know personally, others are celebrities whose work we admire and it makes us feel as if we have a relationship with them. Their work touches us on a deep level, so that when they die, we may feel an intimate loss. My mom used to say that death comes in threes. The truth is, although we may notice them that way, they come in greater numbers than that. Wars, starvation, abuse, addiction, hate crimes, and violence on the streets are the weapons of destruction. Aging and disease, accidents and weather related (hurricanes, tsunamis, earthquakes and floods) conditions take other lives.
For me it, is about appreciating the people in my immediate and extended circles, as well as those who enrich my life through their artistry. I don’t make it about the year in which it happened.
Loss and challenge are not relegated to any particular year. When I consider the patterns in my own life, I have become ever more certain of this. An example: In 1992, I had an ectopic pregnancy, my husband was diagnosedwith Hepatitis C and we lost our house in Homestead, FL to Hurricane Andrew. In 1998, after a 6 year bout with the disease, Michael speant the last 5 1/2 weeks in the ICU and on Decemember 21, 1998, he died while awaiting a liver transplant. In 2008, my father died and in 2010, my mother joined him; both following lengthy illnesses. In 2013, I had a severe case of shingles. In 2014, I had a heart attack, kidney stones and was diagnosed with adrenal fatigue. In 2015, I was laid off from a well paying, well-loved job. Doing all sorts of free lance work now. This year, I have seen loved ones face multiple loss, illness and trauma. As a community, regardless of our political views, we have also had the wind knocked out of our sails during this contentious election process.
Do I wish for the upcoming 12 months to be better? Of course. Is 2017 likely to have its share of ups and downs? Yes. Do I have the resilience tools to bounce back as I have from the aforementioned events? Absolutely. Do you? If you are unable to answer in the affirmative at the moment, know that those skills can be learned.
How to bounce back in a time of loss
- Recognize that life is fleeting.
- Consider how you faced loss in the past.
- Seek and accept support from family, friends, therapists, mentors, sponsors and/or clergy.
- Refrain from self medicating with substances and behaviors.
- Instead, ‘self-meditate’. Meditation is a helpful tool to assist with coping with loss.
- Honor the life of the loved one by carrying on a positive legacy, such as planting a tree in their memory, establishing a foundation or do simple good deeds in their name.
- Appreciate the people in your life.
- If you have a spiritual pracrtice, use it to sustain and uplift you.
- Welcome in new people and experiences, knowing that there are always more to love.
How to create a more resilient mindset
Resilience is defined as: “the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress— such as family and relationship problems, serious health problems or workplace and financial stressors. It means “bouncing back” from difficult experiences.”
Susan Ariel Rainbow Kennedy (SARK) is the author of Glad No Matter What, in which she speaks of the concept of loss layers and the ways in which those who mourn can heal. In a brief period of time, her mother died, her 16 year old cat passed and a relationship ended. Imagine paper mache’ with one piece of paper draped over the one beneath it. After awhile, they merge into one substance. The difference is, we don’t always recognize the beauty in the loss.
Know that you have survived everything that has ever happened in your life, since you are here to tell about it.
When Death comes knocking, do we have a choice about whether to answer the door? If we do, what might we find on the other side?
Earlier in the year, two dear friends shared that they had just lost loved ones; one whose mother died suddenly on a Saturday and he had just spoken with her on Friday and another whose close friend died young and unexpectedly. Another recently lost a lover and then her 21 year old cat in close succession.
How do we hold space for another when they are in grief mode, which can look all sorts of ways? Over the years, I’ve said goodbye to my grandmothers, aunts and uncles, cousins, friends, my husband and both my parents. As much as I know that death is part of the life cycle, it doesn’t mean it is easy to accept. What has helped me is the loving and sometimes silent presence of those around me. Death is an all too human experience, as raw and real as it gets. No one escapes it. It is one thing that unites us as a species.
When Death came calling nearly two years ago, I couldn’t hide and pretend that no one was home. I whole-heartedly (no pun intended) answered the door and found that it had run away, at least for the time being and left in its wake an important message it wanted me to remember: Everyone is on loan to us. Love them now. Every moment is precious. Embrace it. We never know when our last breath will be taken, so don’t miss a chance to live and love full out.
Consider the good that occurred this year. What treasured people entered your life, even as others moved on? What opportunities arose, even as others seemed to have slipped away?
My mother maintained what I called her Que’ Sera Sera attitude as she reminded me, “What will be, will be.”